“Black economic power should equate Black creatives’ power.”
Akin Adebowale and Ousman Sahko, cofounders of Blacktag, a new Black-owned and operated global media and entertainment platform, believe wholeheartedly in this statement, which they shared in an interview with WWD. Having worked with clients such as Google, Viacom, Adidas and Spotify, and artists like Drake, Kanye West, Common and others, they’ve seen the reach of Black creatives’ work and influence firsthand.
Enter Blacktag, a platform designed to modernize how content by Black creatives is created and consumed. Blacktag leverages components from social media platforms like user-generated content and profiles for creators including artists, influencers, directors, musicians, actors, chefs and more to connect directly with brands and audiences that can subscribe to these creatives’ content.
The platform today revealed a $3.75 million seed round led by Connect Ventures, a newly formed investment partnership between Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), becoming its second portfolio company, and new partnerships with actress Issa Rae and entertainer Common to release original content through Blacktag Studio.
In addition, Blacktag will use its initial funding to expand creator and brand partnerships in preparation for the launch in the second quarter of 2021.
“Firms and big tech don’t have a modern platform to authentically reach Black creatives,” said Adebowale, who first thought of Blacktag in 2017. The West African-born and Atlanta-raised multidisciplinary artist and software engineer designed, art directed and coded for Drake, Kanye West and Kid Cudi, and he was also creative director of Oxosi, the online retailer spotlighting African fashion designers.
He would later build the concept with Sahko, a director, cinematographer and Lunchbox Studio founder who has worked on projects for Coca-Cola, BMW, Spotify and Google and who brought the creative into the company to product global content.
“Part of my quest for content was the idea that stories and creating stories has always been a magical thing and that progression of finding that and evolving that has gone to working at a tech company, even if it was to sell products,” Sahko said. “But I was not excited every day to go to work and go to meetings and not see Black creators or copywriters making campaigns for people that look like me.”
The duo recognize the reach of the Black American dollar that Nielsen in 2019 said commands $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. The number was bumped up to $1.4 trillion this year in Nielsen’s report “Power of the Black Community: From Moment to Movement.” Sahko mentioned how Netflix, YouTube and TikTok started campaigns targeting Black creatives and viewers.
“They’re all going out to create ideas in their system, because Blackness drives a lot of value,” Sahko said, “and if you tap into that, your revenue will be massive.”
Blacktag is designed to promote inclusivity, but also disrupt “the monolithic idea of what Black creativity is,” said Sahko, who explained that conventional Black audiences are exposed to the same concepts such as hip-hop or Southern churches.
The duo sees three user groups for Blacktag: creators, the audience for the content, and the brands that look to discover Black creatives, alternative content and global subcultures.
The platform is intended to reach underserved spaces to build content with creators in those space as well. The platform will also showcase longer form content, like a scripted series or film, and provide a space for brands to join and discover and collaborate with creators. The first content to hit the platform will be sponsored content with a curated selection of creatives and a film, “Black Art is Black Money,” being released in 2021.
“We want to be the most important product in Black content and I think we can achieve that by solving the problems we set out to solve,” said Adebowale. “We hope that Blacktag is the place for alternative content and subcultures globally. A place where a brand and clients can connect and sustainably reach Black audiences, but also be the place that is the center for alternative Black audiences and content.”
He added, “We’re a small part of a massive movement and everyone’s eyes are open and it seems like we’re headed in a good direction and now that we know, let’s see where we go. 2020 is the 1968 of our generation, and how will you want to be remembered in the story?”